Monte cassino photo and my Dad help please?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by JD1, Oct 20, 2010.

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  1. JD1


    My dad came over to London from Galway to look for work and ended up volunteering for the second world war, as he needed to send money home sharpish for his 8 younger siblings.....rural Galway had no work and so he came here, another older brother went to Chicago and a third went to Australia...and they managed to keep the younger ones left in Ireland alive by sending home the wages.

    He died in 2003...and it wasnt until he died that we found from his army career....he never spoke about it. He did the whole shebang 1939 - 1945....and fought in the Battle of Monte Cassino....the only time he mentioned the war.....was to say that they killed hundreds of women and children sheltering in the village made him cry and to be honest I think he was so ashamed and shocked...he coped by never mentioning it again.

    He had a lifelong respect for the Indian troops he fought alongside....thats all we know...oh, and he talked about how the mules all died in the freezing mud trying to carry their supplies up to the top of Monte Cassino...he loved animals and that had an impact!

    Well.....this is one of the photos..he is the tall man standing second from the right i the shorts.My mum rmembers him saying that after the war they were invited to an audience with the pope....I know this is in Rome....but who would the man in the middle wearing civilian clothes be?


    He was with the Northamptonshire Engineers or Artillery...can't remember which...we found a pristine copy of a typed diary written by someone out in the field, detailing every day for the duration of the battle....but we all kind of panicked when he died and found this stuff.....medals etc that he'd never talked about....and we ended up giving the diary to a relative who has since died...absolutely kicking ourselves now....we also found a postcard written in German...that I can only imagine he had been given to post or found...again I wish we had kept it now, but that went with the diary

    Hesat us down to watch World at War when they did the Monte Cassino one...and told us to watch it and never again believe anything we saw on TV as it was a total travesty...apparently they entered the village and the allies ran in, kicked down doors and shot indiscriminately....they didnt know women and kids were hiding....The BBC caught this on film in part.....and it was all wiped...and they were told to 're run' that whole though it was them entering for the first time....without the carnage...doing O Levels we tried to get info from him....but he just wouldnt be drawn on it again....certainly not the stereotypical old soldier nursing a pint and a tale...

    I have been directed to this board as it is a wealth of military can anyone shed any light on who the civilian clothes man could be? nd did the pope actually have an audience with this group? many thanks....
  2. The berets look a bit like Polish ones.
  3. Interesting story. Was your dad's reticence to talk about it down to local Republican sympathies or due to just not wanting to relive it all?

    BTW, I disagree about the 'berets', a lot of units wore something more like a bonnet than a beret.
  4. The man in the middle could be the pope without his costume :)
  5. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    • Like Like x 1
  6. Interesting story and photo.

    My Grandad did the full monty too, 39-45, and also fought at Cassino where he was wounded. Can't help with who the guy in the civvies is, but the audience with the pope thing rings true from what my Grandad told my Mother.

    I will be showing her your post.

  7. Sorry not able to help with your pic

    My father was RA (BSM according to entries in his AB 64 ) at Cassino during all the battles (4 in total iirc)
    He rarely spoke of the war but did talk of this battle in some detail (Particularly watching the American bombing and fierce hand to hand fighting)-but he never mentioned the killing of hundreds of women and children nor of large numbers of mules dying in freezing mud.
  8. ScreenShot.JPG Here is the pope during WW part 2, so it is not him
  9. Re berets: They're wearing the GS Cap, which was the cheap, widely-detested replacement for the Forage Cap and was essentially a big, floppy, beret-type thing made out of two pieces of fabric and a wide headband - like a Tam without the bobble. The only people to wear berets in those days were the RTR, RAC, Recce Corps, Commandos, Airborne & SAS.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. I'm afraid that I've not had any luck finding a Royal Artillery unit titled 'Northamptonshire' or formed from the Northamptonshire Regiment. I'll keep looking.

    If it helps, 4th Indian Division was the formation that attacked Cassino Town as part of the New Zealand Corps, which does fit with your father's story. The Royal Artillery units under command were 11th, 31st & 165th Field Regiments, 149th Anti-Tank Regiment and 57th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment.
  11. Any chance of a link to a better resolution copy of the photo? The cap badge may be identifiable...
  12. There is of course 50 (Northants Regt) Searchlight Regiment RA(TA) but they weren't in Italy. Yes, I know that is helpful but not really advances things but I'm a management consultant. It is how we work!!

    Funnily enough while trying to find another infantry battalion converted into a Northants lavoured LAA or MAA RA regiment, I came across this mob - 85 (East Anglian) Mountain Regiment RA. Some **** with an overdeveloped sense of humour in HQRA I feel? East Anglian mountain Regiment...they must have had nosebleeds from 1939-1945!
  13. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    Of absolutely no use, but I feel obliged. Uncle joined A Sqn Northumberland Hussars in September 1939 (coincidentally, unaware of this until his death, I joined 15/19th Hussars in 1975, affiliated with Northumberland Hussars because of their common recruiting area).

    He promptly found his Sqn taken as a cadre for a battery of 25 LAA. He drove across three D-Day beaches on separate D-Days after crossing the Western Desert, landing in Sicily, Italy and Normandy. Total respect.
  14. Bored earlier I did a big trawl and regret that there seems to be no northamptonshire RA regiment...however it is possible that there was an RE squadron or company that had affiliation. There was an RE TA unit before WW2 in Northampton.
  15. Signalman.
    Also, don't forget the 8th Indian Division whose Artillery consisted of 3rd, 52nd and 53rd Field regiments. 26 Light anti aircraft regt RA and 4 Mahratta anti tank regt. It does also occur that the opening barrage of the fourth battle of Cassino, was some 1600 guns firing a huge mission in unison.

    It's a shame that the details of your dads service aren't available to you. Then you could trace his war trail from 39-45. Perhaps a visit to kew would allow you do exactly that? Failing that, can i recommend that you read Fred Majdalany's superb history of the battle, and is simply titled "Cassino". It is without doubt one of the most compelling accounts of any battle you will read, and recounts in great detail all four battles, and much of the horror's seen by the troops fighting for control of the monastry...Good luck!